Drownings, water-related incidents and road fatalities have marred the first few weeks of 2023 and had a devastating impact on families across New Zealand.
Ahead of Auckland Anniversary and Waitangi weekends, the council, emergency responders and our partners have an important message for Aucklanders, asking them all to take care of themselves and come home safely to their friends, whānau and loved ones.
“Whether you’re staying at home in Tāmaki Makaurau over the long weekends or travelling around the motu – please, please, please stay safe,” says Cr Alf Filipaina.
“We’ve had too many tragedies on our roads and on the water already this year and we want to see Aucklanders make it home safely.”
Inspector Trevor Beggs, Tāmaki Makaurau Police, says whether you’re leaving the region or staying closer to home, take your time and be prepared.
“There are plenty of events happening across the region over both weekends. We want people to have a safe, relaxing weekend with their friends and family.
“Police will be out there working hard to keep the community safe, but there are also easy steps people can take to help prevent a tragedy occurring.
“Things like – if you’re drinking, have a plan to get home safely, and look out for your friends.
“If you’re driving, drive sober. Allow extra time to get to your destination, drive to the conditions and be considerate towards other road users.
“And if you find yourself in an unsafe situation, call 111 and ask for Police.”
Fire and Emergency New Zealand Region Manager, Ron Devlin, agrees.
“Our firefighters are often first responders to medical and emergency incidents, and on so many occasions they see situations that might have been prevented if a little time and care were taken,” he says.
With conditions drying out around the country, the risk of devastating fire caused by something as small as a spark is also high.
“The wildfire season has begun in earnest, with many regions currently in Prohibited or Restricted Fire Seasons,” says Ron Devlin.
In Tāmaki Makaurau, a Prohibited Fire Season is in effect in the Hauraki Gulf Islands, which means a total ban on outdoor fires.
“Always check the local fire danger level before you light any type of fire – barbeque, campfire, burn-off, or the pizza oven. Visit checkitsalright.nz to see whether you need a fire permit or if there are any fire restrictions in place.”
Emergency responders deal with too many preventable situations says AT’s Executive General Manager Safety and Vision Zero champion Stacey van der Putten.
“Speed is the single biggest road safety issue in New Zealand today and speeding puts you and other road users at risk.
“If you’re on the roads this (or next) holiday weekend take your time, stay well within the speed limit and drive to the conditions.
“Take care of your driver too, make sure they’re well-rested and not distracted while driving, and we’ll all get home safe,” says Stacey.
Drowning Prevention Auckland’s Chief Executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar says Tāmaki Makaurau has some of the most beautiful water environments in New Zealand but, as we have seen too many times already this year, water can also be the cause of tragedy.
“We urge everyone to think about water safety these long weekends and prepare for each specific visit to the water. Learn about the local hazards, and ensure you have the water competence to cope with the risks of each environment,” says Nicola Keen-Biggelaar.
Surf Life Saving Northern Region’s Chief Executive Matt Williams says the key to a safe trip to the beach is making sure you swim between the flags at a patrolled beach during patrol hours.
“The conditions around our northern coastlines change quickly and that is why it is always important to check Safeswim before planning a trip to the beach.
“All of this information on current conditions and patrol times is at your fingertips on the Safeswim website. Which is why, besides the lifeguards, Safeswim is the best way to keep yourself safe at the beach this summer,” says Matt.
Visit Safeswim for up to the minute information on water quality, tide and swimming conditions – including where lifeguards are on duty – before heading out to your favourite spots.
Popular beaches at Tāmaki Makaurau’s local and regional parks offer plenty of great things to do during summer, but there are a few things to watch out for and make your visit a safe one, says Cr Filipaina.
“Most regional park beaches aren’t patrolled by lifeguards, so know your limits – beyond a paddle or splash about in the shallows, it’s best to follow Surf Lifesaving’s advice, ‘If in doubt, don’t go out’, and head to a lifeguarded beach instead.
“Packing a picnic, planning a bush walk or loading up the mountain bike and are all great ways to spend the day exploring Tāmaki Makaurau.”
Auckland’s Harbourmaster and Coastguard have a message for boaties to ensure they too come home safely from trips on our region’s harbours and waterways over the holiday weekends.
“Lifejackets save lives, it’s that simple,” says Harbourmaster Andrew Hayton, who also urges people to make sensible decisions before heading out onto the water.
Coastguard New Zealand CEO, Callum Gillespie echoes the common sense approach to safety, explaining boaties can take simple steps to enjoy the region's beautiful beaches, oceans, rivers and lakes, safely and with confidence.
"This starts with having correctly fitted lifejackets for everyone on board, taking them and wearing them - they've never ruined a day out on the water," he says.
"Additionally, given Auckland's changeable marine weather, keep an eye on the forecast before and during your adventure. You can do this on the free Coastguard App while also logging a trip report with us so we know where you are going and when you plan to be back.”
"Lastly, don't forget at least two forms of waterproof communication. A charged mobile phone in a drybag and working VHF radio is a great start, but we recommend boaties also a carry an EPIRB or PLB in case of emergency - these can save your life."
Please come home this weekend…
“Police, paramedics, firefighters, lifeguards and all of our emergency responders are truly special people, heroically responding to some of the most difficult and traumatic situations there are, says Cr Alf Filipaina.
“Please take the time to plan safe journeys this weekend, take care on or in the water, and come home safely to your whanau."
- The Water Safety Code: 4 simple rules to help you stay safe in the water.
Beach Safety Messages from Surf Lifesaving Northern Region:
- Choose a surf lifeguard patrolled beach and swim between the flags
- Read and understand the safety signs – ask a surf lifeguard for advice as conditions can change regularly
- Don’t overestimate your ability or your children’s ability to cope in the conditions
- Always keep a close eye on very young children in or near the water – always keep them within arm’s reach
- Get a friend to swim with you – never swim or surf alone
- Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore. If caught in a rip current remember the 3Rs: *Relax and float, *Raise your hand and *Ride the rip
- Be smart around rocks: When fishing never turn your back towards the sea and always wear a lifejacket
- If in doubt, stay out!
- If you see someone in trouble, call 111 and ask for the Police
- Be sun smart – slip, slop, slap and wrap to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s damaging rays.